Best Practices for Applying for the Beyond Open Fund
Small businesses in Charlotte, including small creative businesses, have one more week to apply for a new source of supportive funds — Beyond Open.
The first of three rounds of funding is open for applications through Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. EST. The second round is expected to be announced in early 2023.
Created with support from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, Beyond Open is focused on helping diverse (minority, woman, veteran, LGBTQ) small business owners grow businesses, build wealth and expand economic mobility throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The fund is designed to help grantees invest in the assets they need to grow their businesses for the future. Beyond Open is managed by Foundation for the Carolinas (FFTC).
While small businesses in Charlotte’s six Corridors of Opportunity are a priority for these funds, Beyond Open encourages all eligible, diverse small business owners from across Mecklenburg County to apply.
FUNDING THE FUTURE OF SMALL BUSINESS
“Enabling small business owners to acquire tangible assets like property and technology helps set them up for success long-term,” said Jenny Flores, head of small business growth philanthropy at Wells Fargo.
“We believe that Beyond Open grants for hundreds of small businesses in this community, coupled with support from community partners, will help diverse small businesses in Charlotte-Mecklenburg grow and prosper, creating good jobs for their employees, wealth for their owners, and value in their communities.”
There are three available levels of Beyond Open grants:
1) BUILD FOR SUCCESS
Grants will typically help start-ups and emerging small businesses meet needs for smaller capital assets that could make a big difference – $5k to $20k
2) GROW FOR PROSPERITY
A good fit for companies that have established a foothold, have achieved a level of stability and are ready to expand – $20k+ to $100k
3) MAKE BOLD MOVES
The best fit for long-term businesses that seek to transform their future through the acquisition of substantial capital assets – $100k+ to $250k
DON’T BE INTIMIDATED – APPLY!
In establishing Beyond Open, FFTC has kept in focus the concerns and anxiety small business owners often feel when applying for financial support.
“I get that this can be intimidating to apply for grants and loan programs,” said Tracy Russ of Foundation for the Carolinas. “We’re asking you for simplicity because we’re trying to build a simple way for you to get access to these funds.”
Russ encourages applicants to be direct and detailed, painting a clear picture of what they need to strengthen and grow their business, the challenges they face and exactly what funds from Beyond Open will help them buy to get there. He advises, “Think of it as a conversation with us about what you need.”
7 BEST PRACTICES FOR YOUR APPLICATION
To aid creatives and small business owners as they complete their applications, the Beyond Open team offers these suggestions and best practices. You can also watch this Biscuit Blitz interview about Beyond Open.
1) Use plain language.
You don’t get points for long, rambling sentences. Be simple. Be direct. Share facts. Don’t worry about impressing reviewers. Focus on answering these questions:
- a) What do you do?
- b) What do you want to do?
- c) What challenges do you face?
- d) Where do you want to go (with your business)?
- e) How will these funds help you get there?
2) Be specific. Share simple details.
In lieu of long descriptions, provide details on exactly HOW you’re going to use the money. It’s good to be direct. Explain WHAT you’re going to buy and WHY it will help you grow.
3) Connect to Corridors of Opportunity if you can.
If you are applying for funds that will help with work you’re doing in one (or more) of Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity, include that. Share exactly what you’re doing, who you may be working with and why it’s important to you and to the community. This could range from owning a business in a corridor to providing services there.
4) Break it down. Lists are good.
What will these funds help you buy? An itemized list that shows you know what you need and how Beyond Open will help you get it is ideal, especially if you need more than one new asset or tool. For example, if you need new restaurant equipment, it’s helpful to share what you will purchase:
1) 1 industrial mixer
2) 1 microwave
3) 5 prep tables
4) 7 rubber floor maps
That detail shows the reviewers that you know your business very quickly.
5) Map your pathway to success.
Clearly explain how these funds will enable you to achieve your goals – large or small goals – and how they will help you further your business and build new streams of revenue that will build generational wealth for you and others.
6) Have someone you trust to read your application.
Find a detail-oriented person (or two) to read your application before you submit it. You do want them looking for typos, but also the bigger picture and the most important question they need to answer is: “Can you understand what I’m asking for?” You want reviewers who will be direct with you about what you wrote, not what you want to hear.
7) Don’t wait until the last minute.
The application closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28. Submissions after 5:01 p.m. will not be read. Murphy’s Law applies and things happen. Plan on getting this in early. That way, if something does go wrong, you have time to fix it and still make the deadline.
A SECOND ROUND IS COMING
The current round of Beyond Open Funding is the first of three. While all eligible small business owners and creatives are encouraged to apply, the Beyond Open team also encourages them to put their best foot forward and issue a clear, prepared application.
If that’s not possible by October 28, it’s okay. The second round is coming soon. And, resource sessions will be scheduled to assist applicants in their preparation.
“If for some reason you’re not ready to submit by October 28 – a strong application that you feel great about – begin to prepare for round two,” said Azania Herron with the Beyond Open team.
Watch a Quick Video About Beyond Open
The Biscuit will continue to report on Beyond Open as new developments occur. For more information on the fund, visit beyondopenclt.com
This story was sponsored by Beyond Open.